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Best ball-handler in NBA history - Kyrie Irving or Allen Iverson?

Kyrie Irving is arguably the greatest NBA ball-handler of all time.
Kyrie Irving is arguably the greatest NBA ball-handler of all time.
Arjun Julka
ANALYST

Over the years, the NBA has had only a handful of players that could be considered walking highlight reels. These players are often superstars in the league and are box-office in their ability to sell out arenas.

Allen Iverson and Kyrie Irving have been two such players over the last two decades. They have enthralled basketball fans worldwide with their elite ball-handling skills, sniper-like shooting and their ability to finish at the rim.

Irving and Iverson are the two best ball-handlers the NBA has ever seen

But which of the two has the better package? Here's a breakdown of their playing styles.


The case for Allen Iverson

Career averages: 26.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 6.2 APG, and 2.2 SPG

Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers selected Allen Iverson as the 1st pick in the 1996 draft. This class was considered one of the greatest ever assembled and included Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Ray Allen.

In his debut year, Iverson averaged 23.5 PPG, 7.5 APG, 4.1 RPG and had a remarkable 2.1 steals per game. The rookie shot 41.6% from the field and 31.4% from downtown, above-average numbers for a first-year player.

However, his standout talent was ball-handling. Iverson showcased some never-before-seen razzle and dazzle on the floor with his cross-overs and mesmerizing dribbling.

Allen Iverson was crowned Rookie of the Year in 1996 and was named to the All-NBA Rookie first team. That same year, he broke Wilt Chamberlain's record of 3 consecutive games with at least 40 points; Iverson registered five of them, including a 50-point game.

Out of eight postseason appearances, Iverson made his sole trip to the NBA finals in the 2000-01 season. It was a career-defining year for Iverson as he won the league MVP, averaging a career-high 31 PPG. He also won his second scoring title and led the league in steals.

During the 2000-01 playoffs, Iverson single-handedly carried the mediocre 76ers to the NBA finals. He faced the defending champions, the LA Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

The four-time scoring champion put up a spectacle in game one of the finals when he scored a playoff-high 48-points. Iverson hit a clutch shot over Tyronn Lue and stepped over the Lakers guard, thus producing one of the most iconic moments in NBA history that gave birth to countless memes. His shot gave the 76ers the win in the first game, but they then lost four consecutive matches and the series to the LA Lakers.

Over the course of his 14 seasons in the NBA, Iverson became a cultural icon. He also achieved some great feats. Iverson was a 3-time All-NBA first team, a 4-time steals leader, a 2x NBA All-Star MVP and an Olympic bronze medalist. In 2016, the Hall of Fame recognized Allen Iverson for his distinguished and successful career.

The case for Kyrie Irving

Career averages: 22.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.7 APG, and 1.3 SPG

Kyrie Irving was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kyrie Irving was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving was selected as the 1st overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving shot 46.9% from the field in his debut season and 39.9% from the 3-point line, averaging PPG, 3.7 RPG and 4.7 APG.

He was crowned Rookie of the Year in 2012 and was named to the All-NBA Rookie first team. Kyrie Irving scored his season-high 32-points against New Jersey that year, out of which 21-points came in the fourth quarter.

The 2014-15 season saw LeBron James return to Cleveland, followed by the entry of All-Star Kevin Love, forming a new Big-3. This gave Irving all the ammunition he needed to win an NBA championship.

The 7-time NBA All-Star has made four postseason appearances in his career. The trips have included three runs to the NBA finals. Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship in 2016 after defeating the greatest regular-season team of all time, the 73-9 Golden State Warriors.

Kyrie Irving played a significant role in the Cavs' quest for a championship. He averaged 27.14 PPG in the finals series, shooting 46.8% from the field and 40.5% from the 3-point line.

Irving put on a show in game seven of the finals and displayed his clutch genes. With 53 seconds on the clock and a tie-game, Irving hit a contested 3-pointer over Stephen Curry. The shot won the city of Cleveland their first championship in 52 years.

In his 10 seasons in the league, Kyrie Irving has won many accolades that include an NBA All-Star MVP, a 2x-All NBA second team and a 1x All-NBA third team. He also won a 3-point contest, and an Olympic gold medal.

Kyrie Irving has also consistently received "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd. His delicate touch at the rim makes him one of the best finishers in the league. He is extremely adept with the basketball and can handle his way through an entire team if the need arises.

When comparing two of the greatest ball-handlers of all time, Kyrie Irving holds the decisive edge. Although Iverson's cross-overs are part of NBA folklore, Irving has a more complete dribbling package.

Edited by Utathya Ghosh
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